Student on School Board?

Today on Brian Wheeler’s blog he points to The Washington Post‘s account of Anne Arundel school board member and high school student Pallas Snider. Brian advocates the addition of a non-voting student member to the school board. I agree entirely — it seems bizarre to have a governing body with no representation of the governed — but I’d like to see the position become a voting position as soon as is practicable.

8 Responses to “Student on School Board?”


  • Why not a voting member? I’ll agree that your typical high school student is not well-versed enough in policy and budget issues to be a useful member of a board. But let’s be honest about the fact that most adults aren’t competant for the job either.

    In any high school you can find a few kids that really have their act together and are totally geeky about education, politics and public policy. Let’s find them.

    I suggest that a student be elected to the board by an election among high school students. Part of qualifying as a candidate should be showing up for X board meetings and going through a 4 week after-school course on what’s involved. This way you weed out the kind of kids who just want to win a popularity contest and get the truly geeky kids who will come to the meetings and will be able to do the work involved.

    The student’s GPA and disciplinary record should have no part in qualifying as a candidate, as this would provide incentive for teachers and administrators to misuse their power over the student’s grades and record in order to influence policy. Salaries are at stake, after all. You may think that this is unnecessary, but while I was a student at Western Albemarle in the early 90’s I saw Vice Principals do some very, very unethical and potentially illegal things. Vendettas against students really can happen.

    High school elections for class president are a farce that belittles democracy. The victor has no power or responsibilities. It teaches that voting is a joke and diminishes the value of real qualifications for office. I’ve long thought that the whole thing should be got rid of. A voting seat on the school board would be the ideal replacement.

  • I like the sound of it. I think it would be a good idea to combined a class President’s position with that of a seat on the school board. Have the Senior class president be the school board seat, with monthly meetings with the other 3 class presidents to decide on positions on various issues.. etc, etc..

    And I will 110 percent agree with Jack’s observation’s about administrator/teacher vendetta’s. Any kid who’s had a parent that went to bat for them above and beyond has probably experienced the after effects of admin/teacher vendetta’s. Especially in the Charllottesville school system. And man what is it about the 3rd tier vice principals that make them so vindictive?

    It’s a good idea.

  • I think it would be a good idea to combined a class President’s position with that of a seat on the school board.

    On reflection, I think they’re quite different positions. Class president is a popularity contest. I’ve known rather few class presidents who would be suitable for a school board seat.

  • Waldo wrote:

    On reflection, I think they’re quite different positions. Class president is a popularity contest. I’ve known rather few class presidents who would be suitable for a school board seat.

    Unfortunately True. However it would be nice to try and turn the class president position on it’s head, do something that would make it so it’s not the popularity contest. Either that or just get rid of it all together.

    And Waldo how would you decide which student got the single school board seat?

  • See, I think that it’s a popularity contest right now because the position of class President is meaningless and without either power or responsibility. Once it becomes real work I think that your field of candidates will change considerably.

    How about if the 4 senior class Presidents from each of the 4 County high schools (Albemarle, Western, Monticello and Murray) elect a board member from among them? It would be better if you could have an odd number of votes to avoid a tie, but there you have it. One year terms.

    Charlottesville, having only 1 high school, would need a different system. I would say get rid of the class President thing entirely and have the entire school vote on their representative to the board. I’d rather not restrict candidacy to seniors, now that I think of it. It would be nice to at least have the possibility of a really sharp sophmore serving for 3 years, making a real mark on the board and working on long-term issues.

    Think of the City Council, Board of Supervisors and House of Delegates candidates that would eventually emerge from the ranks of those former board members. You’d have this steady stream of 18 year old kids leaving high school and looking at higher office with more practical experience in government than most new adult candidates. Each of them reformers with a bug up their butts. This would be an incredibly good thing.

  • I have enjoyed reading these comments and appreciate the feedback. Waldo, with respect to this comment:

    “I’ve known rather few class presidents who would be suitable for a school board seat. ”

    I hope I am on your suitable list!

    Brian Wheeler
    former Clarkston HS Class President
    current Albemarle County School Board member

  • I’ll make a list and put you on it, Brian. ;)

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